Cloud bombardment: what is it and how does it work?

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cloud bombardment
Although it is a practice used worldwide, the benefits and effectiveness of this method are still being debated. | Photo: Internet.

Due to the drought In some parts of Mexico, different orders of government have launched cloud bombing programs to stimulate precipitation and help in the supply of rainwater. But, What is it and how it works?Here we tell you everything you need to know about this method.

What is cloud bombardment or cloud seeding?

The cloud bombardment also known as cloud seeding is a technique to cause rain or snowfall through the use of chemical agents that impact cloud formations.

The method consists of the use of aircraft equipped with special flares that shoot silver iodide particles, sometimes together with acetone, directly to the clouds, which generates small drops of water, which grow and merge with each other, to finally fall as precipitation.

  • Silver iodide is a salt with a crystal structure very similar to that of common ice, and acetone is a chemical that can be found naturally in the environment and can also be produced artificially.

According to an article published in the Mexican Journal of Agricultural Sciencescloud seeding aims to enhance a natural process that already exists in the atmospherewhich can increase the formation of precipitation in clouds that are already precipitating or about to do so.

However, he explains, cannot be used to form new clouds or convert small non-precipitating clouds in rain clouds. In addition, placing the chemicals without the conditions of humidity, the presence of cloud droplets or rising currents, does not produce any effect.

“Not all clouds may be amenable to seeding, this opportunity appears to be limited to continental supercold clouds with temperatures between -10° and -20°C, and with significant amounts of supercold water.”

Mexican Journal of Agricultural Sciences

Aircraft firing silver iodide. | Photo: Cuartoscuro.

Cloud seeding is good and effective

Since its discovery in the 1940s in the United Statess, there are doubts about the effectiveness and benefits of this method of causing precipitation.

Furthermore, experts suggest that this method has little impact at the level of generating more water in the skywhile others point out just the opposite.

Origin of cloud bombardment

This practice had its beginnings in the 1940s, when the scientists Vincent Joseph Schaefer and Bernard Volnnegut conceived this method after a persistent drought that took place in the United States in the 1930s, which caused great damage to agriculture, a massive exodus of farmers and a famine that caused great mortality, says the site specialized in meteorology Meteored.

Schaefer and Volnnegut found that supercold clouds of liquid water could be converted to ice crystals using silver iodide or dry ice, after resuming research previously done by the Nordic researchers. Vilhem Bjerknes and Tor Bergeron, who described, for the first time, the process of formation of precipitation in mixed and cold clouds.

As well as the theories of the German meteorologist Walter Findeisen who exposed a theory, whose main premise is that the coexistence of supercooled water droplets, that is, in a state of subfusion, and ice crystals in the clouds, in certain temperature ranges, favors the growth of crystals and ice in the clouds thanks to to the greater evaporation of the former, and whose result is the generation of snowflakes or raindrops.

Before carrying out experiments in the laboratory, the discoverers began to carry out home tests without much success, explains the site. But, after a series of experiments using dry ice or dry ice, which is carbon dioxide at minus 78.5 °C in the solid state, the scientists observed the formation of ice crystals.

Later by using silver iodide it was found that the same effect was produced, thus achieving the cloud seeding.

By testing the experiment in the atmosphere, it was possible to verify that it was possible “produce” rain or snowwhich gave rise to Cirrus Project in the United States, whose explicit objective was to “artificially modify the weather”.

Cloud bombardment in Mexico

Since October 2010 in Mexico there has been a dry season, accentuating in the summer of 2011. For this reason, In the 2012 rainy season, a rain induction program was implemented to mitigate the effects of the drought.which lasted from June to September, indicates the article of the M Magazineexicana of Agricultural Sciences.

The work was carried out in the states of Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, for which 46 flights were carried out, and automatic weather stations were used as a means of verifying precipitation.

However, despite the rain induction programprecipitation recorded during the season was not widespread and was below normal, indicating that this artificial induction of rain, at least for use in agriculture, does not have a significant impact on increasing the amount of precipitation.